Former George Washington University president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was at the center of an international debate recently when he appeared on a radio show and made some comments about sexual assault and drinking on college campuses. My colleague Nick Anderson wrote this article about it:
“Without making the victims . . . responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women,” Trachtenberg said on the show. “They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave. And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much. And there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children on that — in that regard.”
A few minutes later, another panelist on the show questioned Trachtenberg’s remarks. Caitlin Flanagan, a writer for the Atlantic, said she wanted to “take a slight exception or maybe a real exception to what Dr. Trachtenberg is saying about how if young women are sober they have a better chance of protecting themselves from rape by being able to punch the guy in the nose. That’s not a realistic strategy for protecting ourselves from rape.”
The conversation on “The Diane Rehm Show” on WAMU Radio (88.5 FM) continued, and when it was over Trachtenberg — the high-profile president of George Washington University for 19 years before retiring in 2007 — heard from critics who said that the emphasis on stopping rape should be on rapists. He also heard from people who heard in his comments nothing more than practical advice for women to keep themselves as safe as possible.
Trachtenberg had one long e-mail exchange with a woman named Nicky Smith, who was a teacher for 11 years before going back to school in Melbourne to study documentary filmmaking. Here’s their recent conversation, which is introduced by Smith: